Memphis attracts music lovers from all over the globe, and although you're unlikely to get bored during your time here, you might still find that you want to get out of the city for the day. At first glance, it might seem that Memphis doesn't have as many opportunities for day trips as its big sister Nashville, but there are plenty of exciting places to go if you know where to look. Head to the quaint little university city of Oxford, visit one of the state's Civil War battlefields, or drive into the Mississippi Delta for a soul-stirring taste of the blues.
Proudly known as "The City with Soul", Jackson is the vibrant capital of Mississippi. The community is steeped in music of all sorts, including everything from jazz to gospel, but the blues hold a special place, and no visit to the city is complete without stopping by the historic Farish Street district to catch a live performance. However, there's more to the city than music; history buffs can explore the many sites along the Mississippi Freedom Trail, families with kids can visit the aquarium at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and art lovers can admire the galleries in the trendy Fondren District.
2.Blanchard Springs Caverns
Hidden away in the Ozark National Forest, the Blanchard Springs Caverns is a unique living cave filled with constantly changing rock formations. The cave system is believed to have been carved out by a mountain spring, and the water from this spring is still what causes the cave's stalactites and stalagmites to grow and change. Tours of varying difficulty are offered year-round, and many of the rooms are equipped with lighting, handrails, and paved walking paths. However, if you want a more challenging experience, you can take a tour through an undeveloped section of the cave instead.
704 Blanchard Springs Road, Fifty-Six, AR 72533, Phone: 870-757-2211
3.Chickasaw State Park
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Named in honor of the Chickasaw indigenous people who originally inhabited the area, Chickasaw State Park encompasses more than 1,400 acres of land in western Tennessee. There are more than four miles of hiking trails for visitors to enjoy, but if you'd rather explore the terrain on horseback, horses can be rented from the park stables. Horses are not permitted on the park's paved roads, but there is an hour-long guided riding trail perfect for riders of all levels. Another popular activity is paddling around on Lake Placid, and rowboats are available for rent if needed.
20 Cabin Ln #4128, Henderson, TN 38340, Phone: 731-989-5141
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Situated in the Mississippi Delta on the banks of the Sunflower River, Clarksdale, MS is a historic small town best known for its strong connection to the blues. More than a dozen music festivals are held here throughout the year, but no matter when you come, you can learn about the lives of legendary artists at the Delta Blues Museum and take a walking tour of the town's Mississippi Blues Trail Markers. If you can arrange to be here in the evening, you need to catch one of the live blues shows that are held in town 365 nights a year.
The little community of Hardy, Arkansas was originally established as a railroad construction camp in the mid-1880s, and although it's changed a bit over the years, it's still a quaint town with a turn-of-the-century feel. The downtown streets are lined with antique stores and cozy boutiques selling local handicrafts, and there are a handful of cafes and restaurants to choose from, some of which occasionally host live music performances. The beautiful river that flows past the town is another big draw year-round, and many visitors choose to spend their entire day fishing, canoeing, or floating on the water.
6.Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge
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Established to provide habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal species, the Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge encompasses a 23-mile stretch of the Hatchie River and more than 11,500 acres of forests and wetlands. One of the most popular activities in the refuge is wildlife watching, and visitors are encouraged to make use of the refuge's observation deck and boat launches, which are especially useful for anyone interested in spotting waterfowl. Hunting and fishing are also permitted on a seasonal basis, and the refuge is proud to offer an excellent selection of interpretive programming, including both self-guided walks and ranger-led tours.
TN-76, Stanton, TN 38069, Phone: 731-772-0501
7.Heber Springs, AR
Originally known as Sugar Loaf, Heber Springs, Arkansas is a welcoming rural retreat perfect for anyone who wants to escape the city for the day. Most visitors come here to enjoy the spectacular nature surrounding the town, particularly the Greers Ferry Lake, which is known for its crystal-clear water and its superb fishing. If you want to spend some time in town as well, there are several charming antique stores and art galleries to browse, while the Ozark Country Market is the place to go if you want to pick up some fresh produce, raw honey, or locally-made pottery.
8.Holly Springs National Forest
One of six national forests in Mississippi, the Holly Springs National Forest is a wonderful place for outdoor recreation both on and off the water. Much of the forest consists of pine and hardwood trees, but its true treasures are its many sparkling lakes, which offer peaceful swimming beaches and plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming. There are also several hiking trails for visitors to enjoy, including an unpaved 1.5-mile interpretive trail that leads around the beautiful Puskas Lake and a more challenging 4-mile trail that goes around Chewalla Lake and into the hills.
Highway 30, Holly Springs, MS 38634, Phone: 601-965-4391
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Tucked amidst the rolling hills of northeast Arkansas, Jonesboro is a surprisingly progressive city filled with excellent shops, restaurants, and attractions. Visitors should certainly spend some time exploring the downtown streets, but if you want to get some serious shopping done, you can also head to the Mall at Turtle Creek. Make sure to leave space in your schedule for the city's Craighead Forest Park as well, which offers opportunities for everything from hiking to fishing to disc golf. Right next to the park is the Forrest L. Wood Crowley's Ridge Nature Center, where visitors can learn about the area's natural wonders.
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10.Little Rock, AR
As the capital of Arkansas, Little Rock is undoubtedly one of the best and busiest places in the state for a day trip. The River Market District is the place to be if you're interested in shopping or dining, and if you like nature, you can stroll along the peaceful Arkansas River Trail or bring your kids to the Little Rock Zoo. Of course, you also need to stop by the city's namesake "little rock" before heading home; be sure to leave some time to read the informative plaques in the area if you're interested in the city's history.
11.Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park
Conveniently located only 13 miles outside of Memphis, the Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is one of the best-loved parks in Tennessee. There are more than 20 miles of hiking trails throughout the forest, including an 8-mile trail that winds along one of the majestic Chickasaw Bluffs, but other popular activities include disc golf, horseback riding, and fishing on Poplar Tree Lake. The park is also home to more than 200 species of bird, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers, but visitors who are more interested in the area's other wildlife can see live turtles, snakes, and fish in the Nature Center.
910 Riddick Rd, Millington, TN 38053, Phone: 901-876-5215
12.Mississippi River State Park, AR
Arkansas is well known for its natural beauty, and the Mississippi River State Park is a truly splendid example of why people flock here to enjoy their down time in the great outdoors. The park is under 550 acres in size, but it provides access to the Mississippi River, the St. Francis River, and a handful of picturesque lakes that are perfect for boating, water skiing, swimming, and fishing. When it's not warm enough to be out on the water, visitors can still cycle along the park's access roads, hike the Bear Creek Lake Nature Trail, and take interpretive tours at the Visitor Center.
2955 State Hwy 44, Marianna, AR 72360, Phone: 870-295-4040
Nashville is easily one of the most iconic cities in Tennessee, and it deserves its incredible reputation, particularly if you're a country music fan. Visitors can learn about the city's relationship with country music and the history of the genre as a whole at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, while the honky tonks on Lower Broadway are a must-see for anyone interested in live music. If you time your trip right, you might even be able to catch a show at the famous Grand Ole Opry or the historic Ryman Auditorium, which housed the Opry until 1974.
Just like its better-known British counterpart, Oxford is a welcoming university town with a rich history. It's proudly home to the University of Mississippi, which features two historic house museums and a large museum displaying historical and regional artifacts, but there are plenty of other things to see and do in the city as well. Admire the artwork in the Oxford Treehouse Gallery, browse the boutique shops in the Historic Downtown Square, and if you're here on a summer Tuesday, stop by the Oxford City Farmers' Market to pick up some fresh produce or locally made handicrafts.
15.Pinson Mounds State Archeological Park
Encompassing 1200 acres of land and more than 15 Native American burial mounds, Pinson Mounds State Archeological Park is one of the most unique state parks in Tennessee. The site is believed to date back to around 1500 A.D., and the mounds are thought to have been used for ceremonial purposes as well as for burials. A series of walking paths provide access to the mounds. The site also boasts a large museum housed inside a replica mound, where visitors can see excavated artifacts, learn about the specifics of why the mounds were built, and learn about the culture of the Woodland Period Native Americans.
460 Ozier Rd, Pinson, TN 38366, Phone: 731-988-5614
Created by earthquakes that disrupted the flow of the Mississippi River in the early 1800s, Reelfoot Lake is a shallow lake known for its scenic beauty and its incredible biodiversity. The shallow waters make perfect natural fish hatcheries, and the lake offers excellent fishing, particularly when it comes to bluegill and crappie. The area is also home to more than 200 species of birds, including 14 rare species such as the bald eagle and the Peregrine Falcon. Daily eagle-watching tours are offered during the winter, but visitors are always welcome to enjoy the park's hiking trails and birdwatch on their own.
2595 Highway 21 East, Tiptonville, TN 38079, Phone: 731-253-9652
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Sardis Lake isn't as well-known as some of the other lakes in Mississippi, but those who have discovered it know that it's a true hidden gem. The lake is well-suited to almost every kind of water recreational activity imaginable, including swimming, boating, and water skiing, but it's particularly wonderful for fishing, and it's widely recognized as one of the country's best crappie fishing lakes. A marina with a waterfront restaurant is conveniently located on the shore of the lake, and boats, tubes, water skis, and wakeboards are available to rent for visitors who don't have their own.
18.Shiloh National Military Park
One of the country's best-preserved Civil War sites, the Shiloh National Military Park was established to protect the Shiloh and Corinth battlefields, both of which played a significant role in the war. Start your trip in one of the two Visitor Centers, where there are plenty of excellent exhibits detailing the site's history, then ask for the information you need to head out on a self-guided driving tour that leads to 20 of the park's most important sites. During the summer, visitors can also take one of the ranger-led interpretive walking tours that are offered on a daily basis.
1055 Pittsburg Landing Rd, Shiloh, TN 38376, Phone: 731-689-5696
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19.Tennessee Safari Park
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If you're looking for a fun day trip to do with your kids, the Tennessee Safari Park is a fantastic choice. The park is located on a working family-owned farm, and it's home to a collection of more than 80 species of animal, including zebras, giraffes, and antelopes. Many of the animals roam freely through the park, and visitors are welcome to drive through the park in their own vehicle, feeding the animals through the window as they go. There is also a walking section where visitors can see smaller animals like wallabies, cranes, and kookaburras.
618 Conley Rd, Alamo, TN 38001, Phone: 731-696-4423
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20.The Ghost River Brewery
Conveniently located right in downtown Memphis, the Ghost River Brewery is the perfect day trip destination for craft beer enthusiasts. The beer is proudly made with incredibly pure water sourced from a section of the Wolf River only 50 miles outside Memphis, and the family-friendly taproom boasts a welcoming patio, a rotating selection of local food trucks, and the chance to sample special tap room only brews. The taproom is open Wednesday through Sunday, and if you happen to be visiting on a Saturday, you can join a guided tour of the facilities. Tour reservations are recommended.
13640 Yager Dr, Moscow, TN 38057, Phone: 901-485-1220
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Tupelo, MS became an important manufacturing center after the Civil War, but today, it's most famous for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The beloved musician's childhood home is one of the biggest attractions in the city, and if that doesn't satisfy your desire to learn about his life and work, there's also a museum dedicated to his childhood years. Other must-see spots in and around the town include the Tupelo National Battlefield, the Buffalo Park and Zoo, and the Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center, where you can learn about the history of the area's Native American inhabitants.
First settled in 1816 by the Dixon family, Tuscumbia, AL features a charming downtown district and a handful of fascinating attractions. One of the town's biggest draws is Ivy Green, the childhood home of Helen Keller, where visitors can learn about her remarkable life and perhaps see a performance of "The Miracle Worker", a play based on Keller's autobiography. Architecture lovers should also make time for a tour of the Rosenbaum House, while music enthusiasts should stop by the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. If you'd rather be outside, you can enjoy the many outdoor recreation opportunities at the beautiful Spring Park.
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23.Village Creek State Park
Offering almost 7,000 acres of land for visitors to enjoy, Village Creek State Park is a welcoming state park in Arkansas. Many visitors come here to boat and fish on the park's two beautiful lakes, but if you'd rather stay on dry land, the park also features a 27-hole public golf course, plenty of picnic tables and pavilions perfect for relaxing, and more than 30 miles of multi-use trails, including a segment of the historic Trail of Tears. The Visitor Center offers a small museum with exhibits about the area's history, and interpretive programs are held all throughout the year.
201 Co Rd 754, Wynne, AR 72396, Phone: 870-238-9406
24.Water Valley, MS
Nestled in the rolling Mississippi hills just outside of Oxford, Water Valley is an artsy small town known for its period architecture and its welcoming community. The charming Main Street is lined with locally-owned restaurants, art galleries, and eclectic shops, and if you'd like to catch a play or a musical performance, you can do so at the Foster Music & Arts and Old School Theater or the Water Valley Civic Auditorium. There are plenty of outdoor attractions as well, including the Spyglass Hill Trail, the beautiful Enid Lake, and the Water Valley Railroad Park, which hosts a farmers' market during the spring.
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25.Wolf River, TN
Stretching for 105 miles from northern Mississippi to Memphis, Wolf River is a pristine body of water that provides endless opportunities for outdoor recreation both on and off the water. It's particularly well-known for its excellent paddling trails, and canoes and kayaks can easily be rented if you don't have your own. Families and people with no paddling experience can also choose to join one of the tubing trips offered by local outfitters. There is an excellent system of hiking trails along the river as well, and many of these trails are open to bikers as well as pedestrians.
25 Best Weekend Getaways and Day Trips from Memphis
- Jackson, MS, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Blanchard Springs Caverns, Photo: jenniveve84/stock.adobe.com
- Chickasaw State Park, Photo: Pavlo Burdyak/stock.adobe.com
- Clarksdale, MS, Photo: Pierre-Jean DURIEU/stock.adobe.com
- Hardy, AR, Photo: Amateur007/stock.adobe.com
- Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Melinda Fawver/stock.adobe.com
- Heber Springs, AR, Photo: Retrophoto/stock.adobe.com
- Holly Springs National Forest, Photo: fredlyfish4/stock.adobe.com
- Jonesboro, AR, Photo: Jeramey Lende/stock.adobe.com
- Little Rock, AR, Photo: dvande/stock.adobe.com
- Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Photo: sheilaf2002/stock.adobe.com
- Mississippi River State Park, AR, Photo: aneduard/stock.adobe.com
- Nashville, Photo: rodphotography/stock.adobe.com
- Oxford, MS, Photo: fredlyfish4/stock.adobe.com
- Pinson Mounds State Archeological Park, Photo: therobbiehall/stock.adobe.com
- Reelfoot Lake, Photo: jerzy/stock.adobe.com
- Sardis Lake, Photo: rootstocks/stock.adobe.com
- Shiloh National Military Park, Photo: jerzy/stock.adobe.com
- Tennessee Safari Park, Photo: Vladimir Wrangel/stock.adobe.com
- The Ghost River Brewery, Photo: Ratchapon/stock.adobe.com
- Tupelo, MS, Photo: kellyvandellen/stock.adobe.com
- Tuscumbia, AL, Photo: Tim/stock.adobe.com
- Village Creek State Park, Photo: freebird7977/stock.adobe.com
- Water Valley, MS, Photo: JackF/stock.adobe.com
- Wolf River, TN, Photo: motionshooter/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: csfotoimages/stock.adobe.com